MODERN OIL PALM CULTIVATION 1.

A modern oil palm plantation needs a grower who has learned how to cultivate oil palms. Growing selected oil palms is not just a matter of picking the fruit; it is a modern crop. The grower must learn how to do his work well. The grower should ask for advice, so that he learns to do better and better. The grower must think about his work and plan it, so that he can always do his work at the right time. Selected oil palms give the grower much more work than the natural trees, but they yield much more. An oil palm grower is a modern farmer. With the money he earns he can buy for his family what they need, and he can modernize his farm. BEFORE STARTING THINK THINGS OVER CAREFULLY An oil palm begins to produce 3 or 4 years after it has been planted. During that time the grower must spend money and work hard, without harvesting any fruit or earning any money. 2. To make a modern oil palm plantation takes money. Most often you will have to pay workmen for clearing the site of the plantation and removing tree stumps. Then you must buy seedlings and fertilizers. Unless you apply fertilizers to the oil palms when they are still young, they will not grow well and you will have to wait a longer time before you can begin to harvest. You may also have to pay workers to help you look after the young plantation. Weeds must not be allowed to get in the way of the oil palms, and the trees must be protected from damage by rats and agoutis. All this work takes a lot of time, and this means that you may not have enough time to look after large fields of food crops. You may have to buy food for your family. Before you start an oil palm plantation, you must calculate carefully whether you will be able to pay all these expenses. 3. To grow oil palms takes a lot of work. Before planting your oil palms, you have to clear the forest and remove the tree stumps. Then it takes a lot of time to sow the cover crop, dig holes in the plantation, take the seedlings out of the nursery, carry them to the plantation and plant them. All this work needs to be carefully done; you must take your time. Never hurry if you want to be successful with your plantation. Once the oil palms are planted, you must put wire netting around the young trees, you must spread fertilizer and keep watch over the plantation. Young oil palms need a lot of care. It is better to make a smaller plantation, but look after it carefully. Once the oil palms have begun to produce, the fruit must be harvested at the right moment. If you cannot pick the fruit at the right moment, it becomes too ripe, many clusters will drop and the quality of the fruit will be less good. 4. To grow oil palms takes much time and much care. Do not try to cultivate too large an area, or the work will be badly done. It is better to cultivate a small plantation and to do the work well. A small plantation that is well looked after can yield more than a large plantation that is badly looked after. LIFE OF THE OIL PALM 5. The oil palm may have a very long life. It is important to know about the life of the oil palm. If you know all about the life of the oil palm, you will understand better how to cultivate them. If you do not take care of the seeds, they will germinate only after several years. At the research stations, the seeds are kept in a room where it is always very hot. This makes the seeds germinate sooner, after 90 to 100 days.

A new leaf grows every month. where the sun is very strong. it is planted in the palm grove. it produces male flowers. It has a trunk and leaves. . there will be many clusters of fruit. sometimes called a stipe. The spikelets contain the fruit. When it has about 15 green leaves. The seedling stays in the nursery for 1 year. 7. The trunk. when the pulp is crushed it yields palm oil. The oil palm grows well and produces a lot in regions where it is very hot. THE FRUITS OF THE OIL PALM YIELD OIL 10. transplant the seedling out into the nursery. The clusters consist of spikelets. 9. It is most important that the growing point should produce many leaves. and where it rains a great deal. The male flowers are grouped in spikes. the fruit must be separated from the spikelets. there will be many flowers. Seed: inside the shell of the seed is the kernel. The male flowers fertilize the female flowers.6. The young seedling stays in the container for 4 to 5 months. If there are many leaves. The seedling is therefore 16 to 18 months old when it is ready to be planted in the palm grove. At the tip of the stem there is one bud . because there will be a flower at the base of each leaf.one only: This is the growing point. Each seed germinated is planted in a small plastic container. is the stem of the palm. when the kernel is crushed. 8. The fruits of the oil palm consist of the following parts: Pulp: the pulp is yellow. 11. The flowers form at the base of each leaf. If the growing point dies. When you see a left with two points (bifid leaf) coming up. it yields palm kernel oil. After that. And if there are many flowers. For several months. The kernel also contains the germ. The growing point of the adult oil palm produces 20 to 25 leaves every year. for several months. Fertilized female flowers turn into a cluster of fruit. When the young oil palm has been planted in the palm grove. the tree dies as well. The oil palm has no branches. it produces only female flowers. the oil palm produces only male flowers. which makes the oil palm live and grow. Before getting the oil out of the fruit. The female flowers form other spikes.

But nowadays oil palms are grown on modem plantations. In order to get a lot of oil. Beef cattle can be fed with the green fodder from the cover crop grown in the palm groves. The clusters of fruit are sold to mills which extract all the oil from the pulp and the kernels. 13. tenera palms have kernels with a thin shell. These fruits are of the tenera variety. The grower can also feed his cattle with palm-kernel oil cake. a thin shell and a big kernel. the female flowers turn into fruits. what is left over after extraction of the palm kernel oil. There are different varieties of oil palm: y y y dura palms have kernels with a thick shell. The pulp is not equally thick in all of them. they yield a lot of oil. pisifera palms have kernels with no shell. Palm-kernel oil cake is a protein-rich food. each fruit must also contain a lot of pulp. the female flowers of a dura palm are fertilized with the pollen from a pisifera palm. that is. The fruits of the tenera palm have a lot of pulp. In traditional farming. These are selected oil palms. WHY CULTIVATE OIL PALMS? 14. When oil palms bear many and large fruit clusters. nobody cultivates oil palms. y y y y They are not all of the same size. People simply pick the clusters of fruit from the oil palms that grow in the forest. a shell that is not very thick. and a lot of oil is left in the pulp and the kernel. for the workers who work in the mills. a thin shell and a big kernel. The oil is extracted by traditional methods. and a big kernel. y y y . But to get a lot of oil. Once they are fertilized. The shell is not equally thick. 15.12. But these oil palms produce little. These oil palm plantations bring in money for the growers who sell the fruit. Research stations have developed varieties of oil palm which produce many large clusters with fruits that have a lot of pulp. Some kernels have no shell at all. for the government which can sell the oil to foreign countries. The fruits of all oil palms are not the same. These contain selected oil palms with big yields. The growers can also earn money by raising beef cattle.

Growers buy young seedlings which already have four or five leaves. 17. The oil palm needs a rich soil. Where business companies or extension services can give the grower advice. The oil palm needs a deep soil. a lot of oil is left in the pulp and the kernels. The roots of the oil palm cannot develop il they meet a hard layer. 18. The oil palm needs a permeable soil. If the soil is not flat. The oil palm needs a flat soil. The nursery is a small plot in which the young oil palms develop. A hot temperature enables the oil palm to make many leaves and to produce many clusters of fruit. Where there are oil mills. The machines of the oil mills extract all the oil contained in the pulp and the kernels. The oil palm does not grow well if water remains around its roots for too long. It takes much money and work to make an oil palm plantation. A lot of sunshine Where there is a lot of sunshine. or if it does not rain for several months. He will need advice on: y y y y y how to choose the site for his plantation how densely to plant it how to look after the plantation how to apply fertilizers how to protect the oil palms against disease THE OIL PALM NURSERY 20. If the oil palm does not have enough water. the water carries away the earth. provided the oil palm is in soil which gives it water and mineral salts. The grower must use modern methods in order to pay for his expenses and earn money. If there are few new leaves. Where it is hot all the year round The oil palm grows well where it is hot all the year round: between 25 and 28 degrees C. It is difficult for a grower to make the seeds of oil palms germinate. mineral salts can be added by applying fertilizers.WHERE TO CULTIVATE OIL PALMS Oil palms are cultivated in the regions where they grow well and where there are oil mills. In order to produce many large clusters of fruit. the fruit ripens well. The leaves grow large. If the soil is poor. transport is difficult and costs a lot. there are few flowers and few clusters of fruit. there will be strong photosynthesis. When the oil palms are big enough. Erosion is severe. They cannot take up water and mineral salts that are deep down. deep. they are planted out in the palm grove. Plentiful rain If it does not rain much. the oil palm produces fewer leaves and is more often attacked by diseases. There is less yield. 19. the leaves do not grow well. make sure you can sell the fruit clusters to a mill. Seedlings can be bought from research stations or extension services. the oil palm needs a lot of mineral salts. permeable and rich. Before planting selected oil palms. Where the soil is flat. If the temperature drops. you would have to spend a lot of time. . yields are low. To get all the oil out of these clusters yourself. To repary the grower the oil palm needs a region: 16. With traditional methods. The young seedlings are then put into a nursery. Selected oil palms produce many clusters of fruit. and there is more oil in the fruits. It therefore yields less.

protect them against insects and diseases. so as to get fine young plants. HOW TO MAKE A NURSERY 21. mulch it. you must replace the herbage when it rots. water them. Then hoe the soil. Burn all the wood. This protects the young seedlings from a disease called blast. make a pattern. like Centrosema or Crotalaria. pull out all the trees and burn them. When the site is well cleared. It is best to make the nursery on flat ground. Choosing the site The soil should be fairly rich and well prepared. Then put a seedling with its ball of earth into each hole. the seedlings will be strong enough to get through the drought. you can then sow a green-manure crop. the beds must lie across the slope. To have fine seedlings in the nursery you must: y y y choose a good site and prepare it well. choose the finest seedlings. oil palms.Nurseries cause a lot of expense and need much care. PUTTING UP SHELTERS 24. make a hole with a Richard plant setter. Leave a ring of 20 centimetres of unmulched ground around each seedling. It is best to clear a bit of forest for the nursery plot. If you cannot get enough water for the seedlings. it is better to make the nursery jointly with other growers. give them fertilizers. You should till 40 centimetres deep with a hoe or a tractor. If you put the nursery on a field which is already cultivated. To protect the soil against erosion. work them into the soil by tilling again. Spread the ashes all over the plot. If you mulch with herbage. It is very important to make a success of the nursery. When these crops have grown. In certain regions shelter has to be put up over the nursery. But. You must give the seedlings a lot of water. at La Mé. coffee trees. Burning all the wood helps to control certain diseases which might attack the roots of the oil palms. 250 kilogrammes of 10:10:20 fertilizer are applied per hectare. Making holes for seedlings and transplanting To know where to make the holes for your seedlings. it is best to water in the evening and the morning. transplant them into the nursery at the beginning of the rainy season. 23. After that. and it also makes the soil more fertile. if the ground slopes. so that the insects do not attack the young leaves. pull up all the old crops: cocoa trees. To improve the soil structure. Then apply fertilizers: 500 kilogrammes of dicalcium phosphate per hectare. It would be very expensive for one grower alone to make a nursery. Cover the ground with herbage or cluster residues. At the end of the rainy season. put them down only three months after transplanting. Ivory Coast. A seedling that has not grown well in the nursery will make a poor oil palm. But do not water when it is hot. If you clear a forest site for the nursery. If you mulch with cluster residues. apply a dressing of fertilizer. The soil of the beds should be well worked to make it quite flat. At the places where you have put your little pegs. . For instance. it needs deep tilling. protect them against erosion and weeds. Nursery bed is the name for the strip of soil where the oil palm seedlings are planted.5 metres wide. The beds should be 45 metres long and 3. LAYOUT OF PATHS AND NURSERY BEDS 22.

therefore. sow a cover crop.5 metres high. Three months after transplanting. Begin by marking out the boundaries of the plantation. If the oil palms are planted too close together. Hoe to work the fertilizer into the ground. put palm fronds over the bamboo sticks. put two posts together. you need not mulch. apply monthly to each plant 15 to 20 grammes of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and potassium chloride. To be sure to plant at the right density. for the sun burns the soil and destroys the humus. peg out the places where you will plant your seedlings. Spread the fertilizer mixture in a ring 10 centimetres from the seedling and water. Then set fire to the plantation site. If the oil palms are not planted close enough together. but the roots do not use all the soil: the yield per hectare will be low. When the soil of the plantation has been well cleared by fire. to make the nursery about 1 year before you want to plant your palm grove.These shelters are made with posts and bamboo sticks. To make the shelters more solid. You must plan. each separate tree produces much. This is called making a firebreak. Next. you must plant the oil palms at the right density. and Calopogonium muconoïdes. if the seedlings have grown well. You must protect the soil against the sun. The seedlings stay in the nursery for about 1 year. To get a good yield. If you make a shelter. and always keep the soil loose. At the beginning of the rainy season. PEGGING THE PLANTING PATTERN 26. In big plantations the forest trees are pulled up with the help of big machines. Sow 4 to 6 kilogrammes of seed per hectare. Get rid of all the weeds. But often the grower cannot use these machines. In Benin. a mixture of Pueraria javanica Centrosema pubescens. so that the fire cannot burn down the whole forest. shade for the young oil palms is provided by planting castor-oil plants in the nursery. the roots get in each other's way. . and the leaves do not have enough air and sun: the yield will be low. the soil is bare. Then you will be sure of having always the same distance between rows and in each row the same distance between oil palms. you must peg out carefully before planting. The posts should be 2. When the fire is over. but you must hoe very often. The bamboo sticks are tied to the posts with lianas. Finally. THE PLANTATION PREPARING THE SITE 25. cut down as many trees as you can around the plantation and take all the trees away.

27. leave the seedling inside the plant setter when you carry it to the plantation. When you are digging the holes. The seedling is tied into the plant setter. Lift and plant them in the course of a single day. How to peg out the planting pattern Trace lines across the slope and put in your pegs in straight lines. so that no saucer shape forms on top. this is the best density. Fill the hole well. In order to keep a big ball of earth around the roots.80 metre deep. Tie the leaves together. At the bottom of the hole.8 meters between rows and 9 metres between pegs. Do not lift the seedlings long before you plant them.60 metre long and wide. 29. If you use a Java plant setter. 30. place the seedlings after lifting into a wooden box in order to carry them to the plantation. and at the top put the soil you have dug out from below. Planting pattern for a plantation PLANTING OUT THE OIL PALM SEEDLINGS 28. If you use a Socfin plant setter. Leave in the nursery any seedlings that are small or badly grown. Do not mix the soil from above and the soil from below. leave 7. because these stumps and trees would interfere with the oil palms. Choose the biggest and the best-grown seedlings. The hole should be 0. In this way the young plants can develop their root system before the dry season arrives. put the soil you have dug out from the top. Cut away all the dry leaves and the tip of leaves that are too long. 31. Pull out tree stumps and remove fallen trees close to the pegs. Lifting the seedlings from the nursery The right time to plant is the beginning of the rainy season. lift and plant the palm oil seedlings with a plant setter. cut any roots that you find in the soil. Put grease over the cut ends where you have removed leaf tips. A few days later fill in the holes with the earth you have dug out. In this way you can plant 143 oil palms per hectare. and 0. . 32. dig a hole at each place where you have put a peg. One month before planting.

Certain animals may eat the young oil palm seedlings. If there is a mulch around the seedlings. Afterwards spread a fresh mulch of dry herbage. spread a mulch 20 centimetres thick around the seedlings. cover it with a little earth. After you have spread the fertilizer. If you make the holes too long before planting. and spread it 15 to 20 centimetres thick at a distance of 30 to 40 centimetres around the crown. PUTTING WIRE NETTING AROUND SEEDLINGS 34. The ball of earth around the roots must be level with the soil of the plantation. remove the mulch before applying the fertilizer. Spread the fertilizers in a ring underneath the longest leaves. A few months after planting. The right time to apply fertilizers is near the end of the rainy season. Use dry herbage. Make the holes for planting in the plantation.Seedling in wooden box 33. The earth must not form a hollow around the crown. Remove with a little stick all the earth that has fallen on the leaves. To protect the seedlings. Fill in with earth the space between the sides of the hole and the root ball. Leave the wire netting in place for about 18 months. or the sun may dry out the earth on the sides. The recommended dose of fertilizers for each plant is: 250 to 500 grammes of ammonium sulfate and 250 grammes of potassium chloride. 35. This mulch prevents the soil from drying out. with the plant setter you use for lifting the seedlings from the nursery beds. apply fertilizers. surround them with wire netting. When you have put your wire netting in place. the rain may wash earth from the sides into the hole. and prevents weeds from growing. . Do not make the holes several days before planting.

38. Remove all the weeds for 2 metres around each stem. cultivate 6 times. Remove also the male flowers. Cultivation You must remove the weeds around the young oil palms. If you leave the weeds.LOOKING AFTER THE PLANTATION 36. your tools must be well sharpened. so that no other plants can grow in the axil of the cut-off leaves. During the first year. it needs above all nitrogen. it needs a lot of potash. Trimming the plants You must always cut away the dry leaves of the oil palm. When the oil palm has begun to produce. the weeds between rows have to be cut. Remove from the trunk any plants (ferns) that may grow in the axils of the leaves. In order to cut the leaves without damage to the oil palm. Applying fertilizer The oil palm needs a lot of mineral salts to form its leaves and fruit clusters. and makes them bigger. Cut the leaves very close to the stem. 37. This work is done with a hoe or a machete. the cover crop will not grow well. Potash increases the number of fruit clusters. When the oil palm is young. . During the first months.

Diseases Oil palms may be attacked by several diseases. If you see distorted leaves or leaves that break. be very careful not to wound the trees. Protect your young oil palms against agoutis by wire netting round each tree. Rats and agoutis can eat young oil palms.HOW MUCH FERTILIZER TO APPLY Example: Ivory Coast On plantations (per tree per year) Age of oil palm Grammes Year of planting 1 year 2 years 3 and 4 years and afterwards On natural palm groves (per tree per year): 1 000 grammes of potassium chloride Example: Benin On plantations (per tree per year) Age of oil palm Ammonium sulfate Grammes Year of planting 1 year 2 years 3 years 4 years PROTECT AGAINST INSECTS 39. you can place little bags with poisoned maize near the oil palms. . The insects may lay their eggs in the wounds of the oil palm. There are other insects. As a protection against rats. but it is difficult for the grower to control them. put in the axil of the leaves a mixture of sawdust and BHC. ask for advice from the extension service. Rhinoceros and augosome beetles Strategus beetle To protect the young trees. 250 350 500 600 600 Potassium chloride Grammes 200 200 500 750 1 000 Savanna Fertilizer 500 Ammonium sulfate 500 Potassium chloride 750 Ammonium sulfate 750 Potassium chloride 750 Ammonium sulfate 750 Potassium chloride 1 000 to 1 500 Potassium chloride Grammes Forest Fertilizer 250 Ammonium sulfate 250 Potassium chloride 500 Ammonium sulfate 300 Potassium chloride 750 to 1 500 Potassium chloride 750 to 1 500 Potassium chloride Palm weevil (Rhynchophora) To avoid dangerous attacks. Oil palms may also be attacked by rats and agoutis.

harvesting takes much more time. Harvesting needs much time and much care. If you do not wait long enough before harvesting the clusters. A cluster is ripe for harvesting when the fruits begin to turn red. because you must pick up all the fruits that have dropped to the ground.HARVESTING 40. and the oil will be of less good quality. the fruit will not be ripe enough. For oil palms 7 to 12 years old Cut the clusters with a machete. and when 5 or 6 fruits drop to the ground. in this way you can cut off the cluster without cutting the leaf below it. You must go through the plantation many times to pick the ripe clusters. Any clusters that have dropped to the ground should be collected in a basket. . Fruits that have come loose must also be picked up. use bamboo ladders. It will be more difficult to separate the fruits from the clusters and the clusters will yield less oil. because only those fruit clusters which are cut at the right moment yield a lot of good-quality oil. or else climb up the tree with a belt. The clusters can be cut off with different tools. Slip the chisel between the stem and the leaf. you can also wear spiked shoes. 41. If the clusters are too high up. If the clusters are too high up to be cut with the longarmed sickle. For oil palms 4 to 7 years old Cut the clusters with a chisel. The fruits will also yield less oil. climb up the tree by putting your feet on the base of the leaves. For oil palms older than 12 years Cut the clusters with a long-armed sickle. If you wait too long before harvesting the clusters.